There’s no doubt, in my mind, that renting sucks. There are several reasons that I can give for this, but one of the compounding factors making the plight of renters ever more dire is Saskatchewan’s horrible vacancy rates.
Currently, my ex-hometown of Regina has the worst vacancy rate in Canada at 0.6 per cent. But with a vacancy rate of 3.0 to 3.5 per cent being considered "acceptable," Moose Jaw really isn’t doing much better at 1.6 per cent.
It all comes down to the economic principle of equilibrium; a vacancy rate that is too low not only means it becomes extremely difficult to find a home, but when you do, you’ll be paying too much for it because of the demand — supply does not meet demand and this is bad for renters. On the converse, if a vacancy rate is too high, say around five per cent, it means demand does not meet supply, prices are low because the market is saturated and this is bad for everyone interested in building or renting out properties.
With that being said, the cost to rent in Moose Jaw, Regina and almost everywhere in Saskatchewan is too high. It means that new families could be forced to pay far more than needed just to live in a place where they otherwise wouldn't, or rent from a questionable landlord. In short, a low vacancy rate forces people into compromising situations and introduces a whole new world of stressors into one's life.
This is what happened to me when I couldn’t find a place to rent in Moose Jaw. Before starting my internship I scouted around for a place to rent here in town and the best I could find was a single bedroom in a shared household for $650 a month. So for the price of what used to be a decent single bedroom apartment all to oneself, my only option was to consider moving into a household of strangers while sharing a kitchen, bathrooms, common space, etc. Being one who appreciates his space and privacy, I opted to see what I could find in Regina (I was moving from Buena Vista, Sask.).
This decision resulted in moving in and sharing rent with my girlfriend. She was coming from a tiny two-bedroom basement suite where she split $1,200 monthly rent on. So we found a place, a room in a two-bedroom condo that we shared with the person whose dad owns the place. We paid $850 plus cable, water, heat, etc. for our little bedroom while sharing a lone bathroom and kitchen with possibly the most unhygienic, ignorant and ultimately unkempt and inconsiderate person I have ever met. And not having a parking space really sucked once winter hit.
This ultimately led to feeling like second-class citizens in a place we were paying over a $1,000 a month for. Our rights and freedoms in the household dictated to us by a hypocritical, spoiled, forever-16-prom queen whose dad owned the place. And so my girlfriend and I found ourselves moving for the second time in two months. I could go on about how stressful this was; to attempt to do this without taking time off work meant every night after work, moving in the dark and cold – it didn’t help that the new place was out of town in White City. And it also didn’t help that my girlfriend was coming out of her second surgery in an already complicated pregnancy, with more scares and concerns to come.
Ultimately, I found myself feeling sympathetic for all those renters out there in a market that leaves them grasping at whatever they can find. The feeling of never having a space that is really yours, not having that sanctuary where you can just relax and be free to do what you like in what is supposed to be your “home.” It can really leave one with a sense of being almost homeless, or at the very least ‘spaceless,’ like a house without a home — flushing hard-earned money down the drain to boot.
If there’s two major things I’ve taken away from this, it’s that there should be a resource for potential renters — a website, where past renters can leave comments and recommendations about their experiences dealing with certain landlords and their properties. Renters deserve a character reference about the people they are about to become financially and/or domestically engaged with. After all, what's more intimatley tied to a person's life than where they live?
I also learned that I am far too nostalgic and absolutely need to expunge some personal belongings to make moving easier in the future. As someone who loves books — real books made of paper and bound by glue — I also learned that life would be much easier if my hundreds of books were all on my iPad and not in 80-pound boxes that are now taking up a considerable amount of storage space in my brother's basement. Seriously, books are heavy.